Friday 23 April 2010

PROJECT L.... T minus Ninety-One days and counting

Primary objective: To complete the Lakeland 100, or UTLD (Ultra Tour Lake District).

Secondary objective: To finish uninjured and in a compos mentis state.

Training required: Endurance, field survival in hilly and exposed terrain, possibly hunting.

Risks: Death (fall, exhaustive collapse, dehydration, hyponatremia, exposure), serious injury, running-systems injury.

Reason: Glory, for Queen and country and to keep the british end up.

Background: Marathons, long fells runs, multi-day off-road marathons, One 50+ miler.

Preperation: Running at night navigating by stars, running a long way, birching myself daily, caffiene injections.

Extra detail:
I meet more and more runners who say "have you done 100 miles yet". Probably two this year, one last year and none ever before that. Whilst this is not something most people do I figure I should try and join this club to see what it is like. Sounds easy in writing, but its really quite a massive challenge and most people think I'm crazy. There are undoutably more millionaires than century runners. My parents and friends have gone from being supportive, or at least mock supportive to thinking I'm slightly obsessive over the last year or so.

Inititiating this as Project L is part to give it a military and disciplined feel so I can organise, strategise and battle my way around 100 miles in the most efficient manner possible. But mostly because it sounds like a James Bond supervillain style thing. I loved the over the top nature of James Bond villain plots over the years. And I figure if I can run 100 miles I can do nearly anything, including becoming a good supervillain (always looking for the next challenge) - I'm also partial to cats ;¬) please note the "best" Blofeld pictured above.

This weekends Three Peaks race - long an ambition of mine - will be my first challenge along the road to unleashing the results of project L on an unknowing and slightly bemused world. A hilly twenty+ run at a hard effort. The Fellsman two weeks later will be my second and longest long run for this and I don't take it lightly in its own right. A mostly off path run with navigationally and terrain challenges not seen in many events anywhere. I also plan on doing some recceing of the intended target in June. I'm still missing another long run in the run up though as Fellsman to UTLD is quite a gap, so I figure I'll do a long overnight run at some stage to work on the mental and physical aspects.

Its not all about long runs though. I'll be maintaining my Thursday night longer speed sessions with the club to maintain a social and hard pace aspect. I'll fill inbetween days with several longish runs. Which is why I was extra pleased to make a new discovery on a run out a few days ago, a little known section of trail that will now be known as Project L: Basecamp - pictured right.... no, just kidding thats another supervillains HQ, not mine - kinda cool though.

A great bit of, off map, wooded trail just out of the suburbs with some steep short climbs that I could rep on until the cows come home or undulate around linking on the nearby park. For those days when I fancy a change from long runs in hills - should that ever happen - this will be my own private testing round where I can run up and down repeatedly, all barely out of the earshot of "real life", but in my own private - and slightly surreal - world. One which I can run up a road, through a park, jump a gate and disappear into for half an hour or so, then return to a reality 30 minutes older, each time slightly stronger than when I left it.

Repeat after me "Mwu-ha-ha-ha Mwaaa-ha-ha-hah" (cough)

Saturday 17 April 2010

Whats going on ?? post since Hardmoors, mainly caused by a busy worklife on top of lifes usual diversions. Its not just the blog that has suffered, I also have a dangerously stacked Laundry Pike shadowing me right now, the house could do with a clean, and the garden hasn't been tidied up since..... ever (or at least since I moved in). But I have been out there reeling off country miles and I have found a new challenge too, for after the Fellsman. Momentum has ceased me this last year and is taking me to unexpected places. Or at least places I said I may go and people dismissed as hot air, and I never made commited plans to do so.

Bank holiday Friday....

....was a tough recce of the rugged Yorkshire dales from Fleet Moss to Yarnbury for the upcoming Fellsman. On the journey to the start we drove along the beautiful and intimidatingly-spartan upper Wharfedale valley. The final climb out saw us hit the cloud bank, where we spent a fair bit of time this day. For Chris, Mark, Martin, Matt and myself the first challenge was the unpathed crossing of fleet moss, essentially a collection of peat hags, mud pools and generally lumpy, nasty terrain. We succesfully bypassed the apparently gruelling first section by hugging the ridge to the west and south - I hope I can repeat this on the day when tiring nearly 40 miles in. But a crossing of the rough stuff was innevitable and for 30-45 minutes or so we were just humping between solid lumps of land in a sea of shoe-stealing, leg-eating thick mud and freezing water.

Eventually we emerged out of the other side onto more solid footing and eventually down a track to a food stop. Hands on knees ascents of Buckden Pike and later, Great Whernside followed where the wind kicked in a bit more, before a finally flurry of wetland to strip any remaining energy from my legs that day. I got to Yarnbury very stiff and slow after just 21 slow miles trailing behind the others feeling I was lacking something that day. Couldn't help feeling I needed this run to get over Hardmoors.

The next day...

...was an easier but - it turns out - even hillier run in the peak district. Mark and I arrived at Hope and met up with Claire for a navigation of the ridges of the steep-sided Hope valley. Spurred on by the promise of Claire's baking at the end we navigated a route over fields to Castleton, up the tight rocky canyon known as Cave dale, then about turn to ascend the middle ridge at Mam Tor over to Hollins Cross. Here a descent through a farm that seemed to be, so far as I can tell, farming mud... and cowshit, but strangely no cows in evidence to produce such a snsory assault.

As we passed Edale the sun was really beating down. The weather was really much better than the advanced forecasts of day long rain, we barely had a drop all day and when we did it was a few minute long sporadic bursts, fresh rather than wet. Ascending Ringing Roger we were in the bizarre situation of trudging though fresh ankle deep snow whlist being baked by warm sunshine, I broke out the t-shirt, later along the ridge I broke out the sunglasses - oh an unexpected joy of a day.

We dropped and then partially ascended Win Hill before dropping through a Cat farm (a farm farming cats as there were loads of the things (it must be war with the rats and mice around here), We edged Hope only to lose it again.... ascending Lose Hill (I know, terrible, but humour me I'm not a local so must get to use a corny line like that a few times?). We then ridged back passed Hollins Cross to Mam Tor. The solid paths and steady pace meant I still seemed to have bundles of energy this day. However descending Mam Tor I had a small slip whilst bombing down idiotically, so perhaps not quite as energised as I thought. I repeated this twice to coat myself in mud both sides on the messy lower level path back past the local Caves (Blue John, Treak Cliff, Speedwell and Peak) - before realising mud had coated the bottom of my shoes to such an extent that the worn studs were useless. A deserved serving of cake and a pint back in Hope concluded a good weekends running. Another 23m and some really good ascent/descent figures.

Last Saturday...

... I ran an ultra. Some may consider it a shortish one, but the Calderdale Hike is pretty hilly racking up some 6000ft+ both up and down. A pleasent return to circular route ultra's, which I must say are less stressful to get organised for than point-to-points like the Hardmoors 55. I also like this one as you just get Grid Refs and choose your own route, which gives me a chance to mark up a map and pick my wits against the landscape. This was a first ultra for Claire and weather turned up trumps for the second Saturday running - am I being rewarded for completing the "Wet"moors 55? Being over 36m of mostly traffic free dales and moorland there is a kit check, but it wasn't an exhaustive list and I satisfied the regulations. Although my tiny survival blanket - The Worlds largest Sandwich bag - did get a long look. I'll be getting a bigger one before the Fellsman, just in case as I hear there Kit checks are tough!

Off at 9, my somewhat over-relaxed approach at the start meant I still had 2/3 of a mug of tea. I tried to carry and drink this at a canter through Sowerby, but more ended up on my face than in mouth so I ditched the brew. Down the hill out of sowerby and we soon hit the canal. We almost missed the first CP after passing under the bridge, but were called back and soon heading uphill towards the Midgley Moor. Once on the moor we were basking in glorious sun and so stopped for baggage and gear adjustments - Claire to loosen shoes, me to stow away the "sharp edged" tally that was swinging around digging a hole in the back of my arm. The moor crossing seemed a lot easier than when I traversed at the end of '08's hike. Far dryer, i had to check it was the same moor. I felt my navigation on the moor went well, taking the narrower but more direct path up and then the better path across near the western edge. We were soon off the edge and indulging on sweets at the first food CP. Next came the crossing of a small valley with beck and the famous Lumb Hole Waterfall and a climb over a moor edge to a good track to Walshaw via the amusingly named "Horodiddle".  Claire and I we joined on this section by Liz. She seemed unsure of navigation so jogged along with us. Perhaps in over her head navigation-wise, but she had a strong resume of ultra's completed, at a rate of about one ultra or marathon per week this year, occasionally more! She was also one of the select band of Hardmoors 55 finishers afew weeks earlier, spending even more time on the wind and rain soaked moorlands than I did, which I don't envy! Stoodley Pike monument in the distamnce tormented us as we appeared to be running a large circle around it.

This was the first sandwich checkpoint and I had two in no time, conscious of past mistakes not eating enough early during ultra's. The good track continued for several miles eventually joining a road and climbing to the Widdop Resovoir CP. Here in 2008 I had done about 20 miles and had been considering pulling out, already stiff and cold from the weather. On this warm day in 2010 it was very different, only 12m in, warm and running well within myself. The next route variation from 2008 - for the better - was after the climb from this res. Rather than head southward over the boggy Heptonstall and Hoar Side Moors - where I had my first experiance of waist deep mud - we instead persisted eastward. We went a bit "off-piste" before cant Clough Reservoir. The map marled track to the north bank of the res instead appeared to twist and turn to the eastern edge. No matter, we still had a path around to the north and western dam wall from where we meandered around a green valley up until the Long Causeway. More worryingly for me was the fact I had strayed into enemy territory - Lancashire.

We were appraching the peak of the days heat and there was a steadying of the pace in the last few miles. there was also a lack of water here so we had to press on down to nearby Holme Chapel. here there was a CP in village hall with many solid and liquid delights to stock up on. A good job really as we now ascended the steep bank to Thievely pike. I think I may have been the only one of us enjoying this climb, which only confirms I'm somewhat of a sadist when it comes to hills. We now headed south-east with Stoodley pike monument marking our progress back, now far in the distance, but in our sights. We tracked a dry(ish) moor edge path to the next CP and then onwards towards signs of civilisation, the town of Todmorden. Thankfully for me I was now out of Lancashire safe and sound. We tracked a lovely green valley descent towards Deanroyd Bridges after the next CP. In one of those Calderdale peculiarities we passed through somebodies yard and under there washing line on the Pennine Bridleway up the hill here. I also upset the old dog in this yard when I went to stroke it. If it had been more "agile" I may have suffered a very peculiar ultra-running injury, finger loss! Liz appeared to be struggling with the ascents, but Claire still looked strong. We started to catch a few flaggers from this point.

At Lumbutts we had the rather peculier experiance of a CP in a churchyard. I kept checking wher I was standing, not wanting to tread on somebodies grave. There wer now two options to Stoodley Pike. A slightly round the houses steady climb or a more direct run up to the foot before stiff 500ft climb. No prizes for guessing the route I chose for us, which I still believe was faster - I'm sure Claire will insist on making the route choices in future events. The monument, our day long tormenter was now behind us, we were now on the home straight. There was now a descent to Withins Clough and a further descent to Cragg Vale which I enjoyed. We got a bit lost here and were drected onto the right path by a kind local who said he walked up the hill every day, I was a bit envious.

We know had a bit of a navigational discussion witha couple who we'd caught up with at the last CP. I eventually got them to come around to my plan and got us safely to the next CP. They said they had been lost several time already, so I'm glad they came around to my way of thinking. From the last CP it as a few miles of road run to the finish at Sowerby. I was soon sat outside the cricket clun, pint in one hand and jacket potatoe and cheese in the other - bliss. I good day out, Claire had stepped up really well to ultra, not showing and signs of real struggle. I felt good for a steady run, 37.4m never felt so comfortable.

This week and today...

..saw two decent midweek runs including good hill work and an LDWA challenge. Todays trip was to Leyburn for the Wensleydale Wander. Wander was an appropriate name as it really was just flat or undulating barr one decent climb. Lots of good trails and paths and a marked route meant for a really stress-free, no worries, Saturday LSR. Not that this was a bad thing, as there were some nice touches that would bring me back. Hot sausage sandwich at halfway was appreciated, as was the complimentary three course meal at the end. Another warm Saturday and I can feel I've caught some sun. Mark and I were only out on the 22m course for 3hrs34, but a pint in a nearby beer garden afterwards mullling over future event plans caught us an extra hour of sun.

The new challenge... a 100 miler of course. After much mulling I have committed to the Lakeland 100. Afterall, where better to run 100 miles in the UK? The only downside is that it's only 14 weeks away. Still, I'm going to get a few recces in and the Fellsman will make an awesome training run for this (as the Hardmoors 55 did for the Fellsman).